The fish farming sector is one of the most underperforming industries in Kenya. Apparently, Kenya’s local fish production is unable to meet the demand for fish and fish products. Worse, the fish industry is experiencing a steady decline in terms of supply while the demand for fish and fish products remains on the rise. Lately, the government is under pressure to accept fish imports from China. Critics have responded to the move with criticism, noting that millions of young Kenyans are jobless and the country should take advantage of the opportunity to create employment.
According to a report by the Daily Nation, the Ministry of Agriculture, through the Cabinet Secretary, Peter Munya, has resolved to abandon its initial position of banning fish imports from China. Instead, Chinese fish farmers will now be allowed to bring in cheap fish to cater to the rising local demand. In a recent statement, Mr. Munya admitted that Kenya’s fish industry is unable to satisfy local demands.
“The challenge we have in the country is insufficient local fish to satisfy the market, and hence you cannot ban imports that fill that gap that we are facing. You only ban when you raise the capacity to produce locally”Mr. Peter Munya
This is, in no way, good news to anyone who understands the depth of Kenya’s unemployment. The fish shortage should be a motivation for Kenya to build its own fish production capacity. It signals the massive employment opportunities that remain untapped in a country with close to 40% youth unemployment rates.
Kenya has a big potential for fish production, latest reports
An article by farmafrica.org correctly notes that Kenya has a big potential for fish production. According to the source, Kenya has more than 1.4 million hectares of water resources that are usable for fish production.
This means that the country has has the capacity to meet the current and future demand for fish products. The Food and Agriculture Organization, FAO, estimates that the Kenya’s fish industry, which produces about 150,000 tons annually, currently has a low employment capacity of approximately 50,000 people.
Causes of Low Production of Fish Production in Kenya
So, what factors are really responsible for the poor performance of the Kenya’s fish industry? I will describe three key factors that explain the underperformance of this luctrative sector.
Cost of Production: The key component here is the cost of feeds. Fish feed account for 50-70% of the total production cost of fish in Kenya. According to farmafrica.org, the raw materials required for the manufacture of fish feeds are extremely expensive. Feed producers have blamed the challenge on the high taxes, which they say, push their production costs above unsustainable levels.
Fish Prices: China is the Kenya’s primary fish importer. Their cheap fish products expose local farmers to unsustainable competition. China’s fish producers buy feeds at relatively cheaper prices and this allows them to export their produce at much lower prices. Moreover, unlike Kenya, China offers 7% in subsidy on fish exports.
Skills: The lack of expertise in fish farming is a big threat to the success of Kenya’s fish industry. Many Kenyan fish farmers do not have the right skills to manage fish farms and this makes losses inevitable for them.
Allowing fish imports from China is not a long-term solution to Kenya’s fish crisis. Kenya has the resources it needs to meet the local fish demand. However, if the fish industry has to stand on its feet, the government must start focusing on capacity building. Constantly training farmers on fish farming and lowering taxes on key products for fish production could improve the productivity of the fish industry.